Saturday, September 29, 2007

More is Less

It's time to put by the last of summer's crops. The change is in the air. I am sure you have all felt it. Our CSA share this week looked quite different: turnip greens, red cabbage, sweet potatoes, potatoes, red peppers, apples, pears, onions, garlic. Still quite a bounty, but a different bounty. Since I personally prefer a different different bounty I called up Farmer Art King of Harvest Valley Farms to ask for a bulk order of all of the produce that will not be available for very much longer.

We made an arrangement whereby he would bring some extra stuff to our drop off site when he was picking up the CSA crates. So, no extra gas used for anyone this time. Yippee! And no waiting in lines or wrestling with children and wagons at the farmer's market. For $50 I got 4 dozen ears of corn, a 1/2 bushel of tomatoes, a peck of grapes, a peck of red peppers and several large bunches of basil.

I dried 10 red peppers and here is the result of that:

These can be used in soups, stews, sauces, etc. without rehydrating. Another suggestion from Preserving Summer's Bounty was to pulverize the dried vegetables into flakes to use as "nutritious, colorful seasonings."

The rest of the red peppers I diced and froze on trays on then transferred to freezer bags. These are 3 for a $1.00 at the farmer's markets right now. I have paid $4.00 for a single red pepper (they usually cost $3.99 a pound at supermarkets and good ones weigh about a pound). Talk about more with less.

I also froze three cookie sheets worth of basil (and then transferred to bags). The leaves turned an awful shade of black, but they still smelled good. According to the book Preserving Summer's Bounty by Susan McClure, "when you are ready to use an herb, pull out the crisp-frozen leaves and crumble them into the dish you're cooking. If you let the herbs thaw, they're likely to be soft textured." There are many other ways to preserve basil. This website has many recommendations: The basil can be had for about $2.50 a bunch (for example) at the Farmers @ Firehouse Market (Saturdays in the Strip District)-- thanks to my M-I-L for picking me up some today. A bunch is about 30 times the size of the little plastic box you can get at the supermarket for the same price. So, even if your end result with preserving is not perfect, just think, is it 30 times less good?

I also distilled about 30 pounds of tomatoes into sauce.

Following the suggestion of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving I added fresh basil leaves and 1/2 teaspoon of dried seasoning to the jars before ladling in the sauce. I am excited about tasting this summer treat in the darkness of a winter evening.

More tomatoes are in the dryer right now turning into sun dried tomatoes. Now, they won't be "sun-dried" but they will taste the same and I'm sure everyone knows how much those cost and how good they are. For about 40 pounds of tomatoes, I paid $12. That's 30 cents a pound! Have you ever seen tomatoes at that price at the supermarket?

It's also a good time to stock up on green beans and zucchini if you see them. They won't be around for much longer. Zucchini can be shredded and frozen to use in baked goods and sauces (just thaw and squeeze out the moisture before using). It can also be sliced and frozen to stir fry later. Green beans can be frozen as is also and then boiled or stir fried within six months.

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